Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Small Groups; Big Things

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 -- Week of Proper 13, Year Two
George Freeman Bragg, Jr, Priest, 1940
More about today's commemoration at our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:
Note:  I'll be away for a week.  To continue to read the Daily Office, you might link to the Daily Office online version.

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 979)
Psalms 79:1-39 (morning)       79:40-72 (evening)
Judges 7:1-18
Acts 3:1-11
John 1:19-28

Often the good things that move a nation or society into a constructive path have their genesis among small groups who are willing to dream and listen and hope.  Creativity and healing springs from from the Spirit.  In times of fear, we need perfect love, for perfect love casts out fear.  Perfect love comes from God.

Our three stories today offer images of God's work among the small to do mighty things. 

In the story from Judges, Gideon dismisses all but a tiny fraction of the ten thousand in his army.  Those who are fearful are the first to be released.  The message is clear.  It is God who directs the victory.  The hand of a but a few, stout hearted faithful will win the day.

As Peter and John approach the temple at the hour of the evening sacrifice at 3:00 p.m.  They are entering by the Beautiful Gate (also called the Golden Gate), in the middle of the eastern side of the temple mount.  Jewish tradition holds that the Divine Presence (Shekhinah) used to appear through this gate, and will appear again at the coming of Messiah.  Some scholars believe Jesus may have entered this way on Palm Sunday as a way of articulating this tradition.  (Others argue for a south gate which offers more direct access to the temple.  The Beautiful Gate is sealed off today.  Our tour's first entrance into the Old City this March was through the Lion's Gate, also on the eastern side but a bit north of the Beautiful Gate.)

A man lame from birth was being carried in by his friends so that he could be placed at a convenient location to beg from those who would be entering the temple for the evening prayers.  When he asks Peter and John for alms, the text says that "Peter looked intently at him, as did John."  For any change to happen, there must first be attention.  We have to see the problem.  We need focus.  "Look at us," says Peter.  And the lame man "fixed his attention on them."  There is connection.  It is still a connection in an old paradigm.  The man expects to receive money from them.  But this is the precursor to change, progress and healing.  Our eyes must be open.  We must see the problem.  We must make connection.

Peter's address to the man sounds so much more lyrical in the older King James Version:  "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give thee:  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."  The man who had been stuck, dependent for so long, rises leaping and praising God.  It happens at the edge of the crowd in this small circle of three.  But the ripples of that act flow throughout the masses, inspiring wonder and amazement.

Our third story happens in the wilderness.  It begins with the voice of one who cries out from the wilderness.  "Make straight the way of the Lord."  He speaks the words of a prophet, though he says he is not the prophet.  It is John, the kinsman of Jesus.  The small crowd that has left the city to journey to this place of retreat gathers to ask questions.  They are able to express their curiosity.  They hear words of new possibility.  John says, "I baptize you with water.  Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me..."  There is new possibility arising among them.  Quiet and almost invisible, there is hope emerging from this place of retreat and reflection.

God is always directing our way, if we will but release our tendencies toward anxiety and fear.  Be of good courage.  Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  We when fearlessly look, paying attention, we can not only see problems that we might otherwise ignore, we can also be guided to new solutions, new possibilities.  We make connections.  Sometimes it helps to retreat first, to back away from the usual bustle and distractions in order to gain new insight, in order to ask good questions.  In the midst of us is the Divine Presence, quiet and almost invisible.  There is always hope emerging from the midst of us. 

Quiet the fear.  Embrace hope and courage.  Look with expectation.  Make connections.  Listen and pray.  Love is always active -- healing, reconciling, drawing us into new places of hope and reunion.



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Cammie Novara said...

"Often the good things that move a nation or society into a constructive path have their genesis among small groups who are willing to dream and listen and hope." You're absolutely correct.

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Oh my heart - this is a splendid reflection - words from the beautiful gate of an inspired soul, surely. Thanks so much Lowell.


At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

65 years ago today, 200,000 people or more were killed, in some cases, incinerated by atomic bombs dropped on a civilian population. Remember and vow that nuclear weapons will be banned and eliminated from the world.


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